If art is supposed to be inspiration then Pieter Bruegel’s painting, The Triumph of Death, should motivate you like nothing else. Get it done, make your move, execute. Tomorrow is closer than you think.
Choices are easily made, or unmade. Sometimes we just let events, ennui, or fear, make choices for us. The results of these non-decisions are uniformly bad and they create a cascade of events that serve as stark reminders (punishments) that appear in our lives.
These reminders exist as little insurgents, draining resources and blunting efforts to be free. The longer they last, the harder it is to remove them. Let them last long enough and it will take a herculean effort to be rid of them.
This CIA handbook on how to fight an occupation with slow and deliberate acts (long meetings, rigid emphasis on useless details, etc.) is illustrates the failure to act and make the right pre-emptive choices.
So, no matter what, act on Hamlet’s questions to himself and “take up arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them.”
Make the choice, fight the hard fight. The clock is ticking and liberation pulls further from view every day that we don’t fight.
In the Hagakure, a book written by the samurai official Yamamoto Tsunetomo in the 17th-century, the author writes about the different characteristics of people that make up society. He points out that the most valuable person is the “kusemono.”
Translators of the Hagakure point out that the modern meaning of that term is that of a “ruffian” or an eccentric. So why was the kusemono so valuable? According to the Hagakure, a kusemono is a person who avoids trouble, keeps to themselves, and only appears when needed. Not unlike the solitary hero of samurai movies in the 1960’s, a kusemono eschews high honors and recognition and prefers to keep to their own devices until duty calls. Then, when the job is completed, they return to their solitary ways.
In short, a kusemono is like a friend.
Albert Camus penned an exploration of the absurdity of life titled The Myth of Sisyphus. In it, Camus examined the essential absurdity of life (that we look forward to tomorrow even though tomorrow brings us closer to death).
One of the 4 chapters of the book covered the Greek myth of Sisyphus who was consigned to punishment in the underworld of rolling a boulder up a hill until, right before he reached the top, it rolled back down. Forcing him into a perpetual punishment of never completing his hellish task.
Camus essentially argued that, despite the unceasing toil, Sisyphus would actually be contented because he recognizes the absurdity of his fate and is thus able to reach a state of acceptance. This is similar to the theme found in many religions in which the acceptance of death is the precursor to satisfaction in that it removes all vanities so that one can focus on the joys of life.
We each need our mindless task, a continuing struggle that makes us confront our vanities and fears. This is not a call to sink into negativity but, rather, a call to action. Mine is kendo, specifically suburi and hayasuburi. In my daily practice each swing is done fully with as much as focus as I can muster until I can almost smell the wood of the shinai or bokken and the sound of the strike.
“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
David Katz posted a poorly-edited and even more poorly-thought out essay in the Huffington Post. Worried amount the mounting evidence that his line of thinking is incorrect and responding to the success of Nina Teicholz’s new book, he posted his thoughts on Huff Po. Here are my initial thoughts to his screed but the comments section of the post is quite good as well: “So we might ask the question: if Atkins had the truth for us in the 1970s, why did we need a diet revolution in the 1990s? And if that revolution in the 1990s, which reached tens of millions in the early 2000s was really the answer — then why are we reacting to the same dietary déjà vu all over again in the Wall Street Journal as if it were some kind of epiphany?” Answer: while Atkins came about then, vested interests had a lock on information and legitimacy. Only in the 90’s, with the advent of the internet, were alternate ideas introduced en masse.